Under most circumstances, a baseball player would be pumped about a .292 average with a .397 OBP over 199 plate appearances. But when said player is Anthony Rizzo and he’s only got two home runs in that same span, there isn’t a whole lot to be excited about.
The first baseman hasn’t homered in his last 60 plate appearances and experienced a 109-PA drought between his 19th and 20th dingers. That actually lasted more than a month, from June 15 to July 19, during which time he posted a .122 ISO (a measure of raw power) nearly 100 points below his career average (.215). He’s getting hits, they’re just not leaving the yard.
It’s not unusual for Rizzo to fall into funks in which he strings together some really awful plate appearances. His swing will look like garbage and he’s almost an automatic out for a few games, then he snaps out of it and goes on a tear. But this latest run is different because his approach still looks good in most respects.
“He’s not pressing, he’s just off,” Joe Maddon said Tuesday in Philadelphia. “He just feels off right now. Mechanically he feels off and that’s where it’s at.”
Okay, cool, but what does that mean? Sahadev Sharma points to several aberrations ($) in Rizzo’s recent batted-ball profile and makes a suggestion as to how shuffling him in the lineup, at least temporarily, might help to mitigate the lack of power. As for exactly what’s causing all of that, however, even Rizzo himself may not know.
“You’re always fighting your mechanics,” the slugger explained. “Just one of those things where you gotta keep playing. I know I can hit the baseball good, I know can play at a high level — I am playing at a high level. It’s just the power will come and when it does, it’ll all click.”
Therein lies the good news, which is that Rizzo has more than enough of a track record — including this season — to suggest that a breakout is imminent. While it involves a little cherry-picking, his best stretch of the season took place over a period roughly equivalent to what the Cubs have remaining in the season. From April 12 to May 27 (164 PA), Rizzo hit 13 homers with an 1.113 OPS, a 181 wRC+ and a .450 wOBA.
Repeating a similar run would put him at a career-high 34 home runs and would see him at or near his best marks in several other offensive categories. Continuing on his current path, however, leaves him poorly suited to occupy the cleanup spot in the order since a power hitter with no power is just…a hitter. The Cubs will need more than that to overcome what has to this point been a disappointing performance away from Wrigley.
Unless, that is, Rizzo and the rest of the team remain content to let Nicholas Castellanos keep going back up to the buffet to satiate his hunger.